The State of Frozen Food Sales A Mid-Year Snapshot

The frozen food aisle has been a growth driver for retailers since 2016 with acceleration ahead of most other departments. In 2020, frozen foods proved to be a pandemic powerhouse ringing in $65.1 billion in retail sales. One of the biggest questions coming out of 2020 was: Could frozen sustain these gains? All signs point to YES!

The 2021 Power of Frozen report found that 30% of Americans expanded their freezer capacity by adding a second fridge/freezer combination or a stand-alone freezer since the onset of the pandemic. This was a result of one of the most consistent and persistent pandemic grocery shopping trends of fewer, but bigger trips. Preparing many more meals at home highly favored frozen food and its longer shelf life — prompting consumers to invest in additional freezer space.

Not letting their investment go to waste, consumers continue to highly engage with the frozen food aisles. Over the last 52 weeks ending late May 2021, frozen food sales are still up 9.2% versus the same period a year ago. This is 4% higher than the  5.8% increase in sales seen for all foods and beverages.

Additionally, in May of 2021, frozen foods were still 22.6% over and above their 2019 pre-pandemic baseline. This is still much higher than the 14.8% increase in sales for total food and beverages. Across all 2021 months to date, frozen food gains have consistently been above 20% versus 2019, with matching unit and volume gains.

Dollar sales Dollar gains vs. YA
All food and beverages $666B +5.8%
Frozen foods $65B +9.2%

Source: IRI, MULO, 52 weeks ending 5/30/2021

Importantly, many areas of the store see their sales growth percentages boosted by high levels of inflation whereas frozen food prices are slightly less than what they were in the late spring of 2020. Here are a few of the growth drivers that prove the demand for frozen food will remain:

  • Cross-Assortment Engagement —Over the past few years, it isn’t just one or two areas in the frozen food aisle that are driving growth; it’s all categories.
  • The Three Levers of Growth —Every brand, product or category has three ways to increase sales: having more people buy, having people buy more and having people buy more often. Frozen food sales gains are the result of hitting this growth trifecta. Virtually every frozen food category saw an increase in household penetration, trips and the average basket size — an accomplishment not all departments can boast.
  • The 360 win — Many categories play in breakfast versus dinneror indulgence versus health. But frozen foods cover it all: functionality and indulgenceand variety.. Lunch became a huge growth opportunity during the pandemic as consumers emphasize time and convenience. With many more consumers continuing to work from home part or all of the time, frozen foods will continue to make inroads across meal occasions.
  • Online food and beverage growth — While all retail channels gained over the past 15 months, it was food e-commerce that exploded, with a 2020 gain of 84%, according to IRI. Online now represents about 10% of all food sold in the U.S. And online growth has not yet plateaued with expected market penetration of about 12% by the end of 2021. Here too, frozen food rides a growth trend, with very high online conversion and penetration.

All of these signs point to a bright future for frozen food demand. Join AFFI and IRI on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, to learn how CPG manufacturers and retailers can leverage the current state of the frozen food department to continue to drive growth and meet consumers evolving needs. For more information and to register, click here.

Dollar sales Dollar gains vs. YA
Frozen foods $65B +9.2%
Frozen meals $22B +6.7%
Frozen meat/seafood/poultry $16B +13.8%
Frozen deserts $14B +8.9%
Frozen fruits/vegetables $7B +6.2%
Frozen snacks $3B +16.1%
Frozen baked goods $2B +5.2%
Frozen beverages $0.3B +12.0%


Source: IRI, MULO, 52 weeks ending 5/30/2021

This article was contributed by the American Frozen Food Institute, 210 Analytics and IRI.



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